By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post
In a neighborhood shaken by suicides—including a recent incident in which a local policeman took his own life at his Garfield Ridge home—understanding and preventing suicide is as important as ever, organizers of a free workshop said this week.
The “Proactive Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Workshop” is set for 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18 at St. Rene Church, 6815 W. 63rd Place.
A number of participants have pre-registered, but walk-ups are welcome, as well.
“This workshop is for people who want to learn about suicide prevention and take an active step in an uncertain future,” said Clearing resident Amanda Vitrano, who lost her sister, Lauren, to suicide in October 2017. “They can have the knowledge and be proactive about something that can happen. They will be able to recognize the signs and know what to do if a crisis occurs.
“Think of it like a CPR class,” she continued. “You don’t take it because you feel like you or a neighbor is about to have a heart attack. You go because you want to be prepared in case something does happen. You are arming yourself with tools in case a crisis occurs.”
Lauren Vitrano was a fourth-year pharmacy student at UIC, a
The main presenter of the workshop is the non-profit Hope for the Day group.
“I work in an advertising agency,” Vitrano said. “One day (a year ago) they came into the office and gave us a quick 45-minute suicide prevention workshop. I never had training for suicide prevention before.
“[Hope for the Day] offers free information courses. They attend music events and go to offices and other places. They have a coffee shop, Sip of Hope in Logan Square, that donates 100 percent of the proceeds to suicide prevention efforts.”
Hope for the Day was founded by musical show producer Jonathan Boucher, who lost nine people--including his boss, mentor and friend--to suicide before founding the organization in 2011.
“They do a tremendous job bringing a voice to what no one wants to talk about,” Vitrano said. “They have been a tremendous help to my family this past year.
“I want people to understand that this (mental health and suicide) can’t be ignored. People still can’t talk about mental illness. Anyone can come, no matter what age they are.”
Growing up, Vitrano knew next to nothing about suicide other than hearing that it is a sin.
“It never seemed real to me until last year, when my sister committed suicide,” she said “It’s real and it can happen. My sister was a happy, healthy girl for 24 years of her life. Then after a few months of depression she began to think life was not worth living.”
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